It is generally considered legal to use hidden cameras in your home to record surveillance material without the knowledge or consent of the person who is being recorded; and because of this, “nanny cams” are becoming more and more popular. In fact, they have become so popular and versatile, that they are now being used in day-care centres so that parents can keep an eye on their children during the day or, like in Texas, family members can monitor their loved ones in assisted living facilities.
However, before using or installing a hidden camera, be sure to check the specific laws in your area or state and always consult with an attorney on how and why you are planning on using your hidden camera.
Video Vs. Audio Recording
There are two distinct legal aspects to be considered in the use of hidden cameras; video recording and audio recording. Video recording is legal throughout the United States but audio recordings are illegal (U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 119, Section 2512). This is why most nanny cams are sold without an audio facility and even if you did record audio, in the event of a trial, it would not be legal or permissible in a court of law.
Video Recording in Private Places
It is illegal to put hidden recording devices in areas that are deemed as “private”. This includes bathrooms, bedrooms and any place where a person can reasonably expect to have their privacy. Although it is not expressly outlawed in certain states, it can leave you open to legal issues. These “expectation of reasonable privacy” guidelines also apply to any recordings made in public places. It is, for example, illegal to install a hidden camera in changing rooms, hotel rooms, restrooms, locker rooms and other areas deemed as “private”.
Hidden Cameras in the Workplace
There are no clearly established laws, both by the federal government and by states, which govern the usage of covert surveillance cameras in the workplace. Although businesses are within their rights to install and use hidden cameras, most small to medium size businesses will notify their employees of their presence, although they are not currently legally required to do so. Large corporations will usually negotiate with the relevant unions and will establish rules governing their use.
Audio Recording a Conversation
The laws of recording audio conversation are much clearer than those involving hidden cameras. Some states allow you to record a conversation if one party in the conversation gives their consent. In other states, both parties have to give their consent for you to record the conversation. It is generally not legal to record a conversation if you are not one of the participants in the conversation.
Know Your Rights
Forewarned is forearmed. It is always best that you consult an attorney before you engage in the recording of any conversation, and as a precautionary measure you should consult an attorney whenever you decide to record video, audio or both; know your rights, both as the observer and as the observed.
Once you are aware of all the necessary legal issues involved in using a hidden camera, you should make an informed decision on the make, model and type of camera; consult your local Locksmith in Chicago for advice on the best system for your needs and your budget.
Ultimately err on the side of caution and remember to respect the privacy of others as you would have them respect yours.